Go East, Young Man: To the Big Apple
A Californian comes to New York City to tame technology at the world's largest police department.
N.Y.P.D. Technology Projects in Progress
Computer Aided Dispatch Automation replacement of the current CAD in use at the 9-1-1 Center.
Voice over Internet Protocol Combined voice and data in one network system.
N.Y.P.D. & MTA Subway Provision of subway radio systems for police use. Communications project.
Building of PSAC II (Public Safety Answering Center) Provision of a second 9-1-1 dispatch center
Wireless E 9-1-1 Ability to provide location for cell callers to the 9-1-1 dispatch centers
Wireless 2-Way Pagers Ability to provide access to Criminal Justice data bases via a pager device
DNA Tracking System Provide investigators with DNA information.
Document Imaging Reduce paper backlog by scanning legal and medical records to an optical disk system.
Domestic Violence System Provide DV Officers with current information as they respond to DV calls
Electronic E-mail Provide all employees with e-mail access.
Ethernet Migration Migrate all WANs from Token Ring to Fast Ethernet.
Intranet Development Utilize the Intranet for common document repository; distance learning, instruction, project management, document interchange.
Extranet Development Make N.Y.P.D. processes available to citizens on the WEB [requests, reports, quality of life requests, etc.]
Digital Cameras Expand the use of digital cameras for arrest processing, evidence recording, crime scene investigation.
Bar Code Use Property and evidence processing; prisoner transportation & housing.
Property & Evidence System Automation of Property & Evidence processes.
Training Inventory Automation of training records.
Video conference Systems Ability of conduct meetings with remote sites.
Mobile Data Terminal Computing capability and access from squad. Replacement Program and investigation vehicles.
By Howard Baker
I RECALL the fateful November, 1997 Sunday well. I was home in San Francisco, reading The New York Times (in the Bay Area, if you want to read a good newspaper, you have to import it). I came across an advertisement for the deputy commissioner of technological development at the New York Police Department.
I decided I had the required skill sets and experience to apply for the job. So, I mailed my resume on the outside chance that New York didn't have a better candidate for the position.
Months went by before I was notified that I would be interviewed by the search panel. Dutifully, I reported and was duly interviewed by several N.Y.P.D. brass who seemed somewhat curious about the young California man who, contrary to Horace Greeley's advice, was interested in going East.
A few more months went by, and I was once again summoned to 1 Police Plaza.
It was somewhat overwhelming, in an historic sense, to come into the sanctum sanctorum of the most renowned police department in the nation, and meet with Police Commissioner Howard Safir.
I returned to California, and waited for three more months. Finally, I got word that I was the candidate they wanted to hire, and could I be in New York City on July 13, 1998. My last memory before I landed at New York's JFK airport was wondering if I was making the right decision. Would I fit in? Would the task be too daunting? Nonetheless, I exited the plane and set out on my adventure.
The first order of any new assignment is to assess the job and triage the tasks to be accomplished. I quickly learned that this was no small feat!
My introduction to N.Y.P.D. was a sign in my new office: "Welcome Commissioner Baker to the New York City Police Department." That was more than two years ago and, although I was welcomed with open arms, I feel as if I am just now getting a comprehensive grasp of my duties and responsibilities.
Let me explain by outlining the breadth of technology utilized. The N.Y.P.D. has 57,000 employees, also known as customers of our technology services. These customers are stationed at 76 precincts, nine "Housing Police Service Areas" (PSAs), 13 transit districts, 138 specialized commands, every school (primary, intermediate, and high school), four highway districts, and at every corner where a traffic enforcement agent directs traffic. In short, our employees are everywhere in the five boroughs.
At each site we provide telephones, radios, local area networks, connection to the wide area networks, personal computers, application programs, office suites, live scan fingerprinting machines, automated photo imaging computers, 63 specialized criminal justice databases, 2,200 mobile data terminals, wireless laptop cellular digital packet data operations, handheld two way pager message switching, and 24 hour per day support [help desk and technical support].
Thus, the 2,000 employees of the Office of Technology and Systems Development are constantly providing technology, ensuring that the technology functions properly, and seeking new technology trends for future use in an ever changing environment in which we operate.
I have always been labeled as a "hands on" person. I roll up my sleeves and get to work on installing, correcting, and improving whatever IT situation I encountered.
Clearly, this was not an assignment where I could do that. This job required that I set direction, provide a vision, delegate to subordinate managers, and ensure that the customer was getting the best technology possible.
The first task was to marshal the attack on Year 2000 (Y2K) issues. The staff had started the voluminous cataloging of the date sensitive lines of code that needed correction. An old IBM mainframe computer, 4,500 personal computers, and a whole host of other embedded chip technology [ID card scanners, intrusion alarm boards, and anything which displayed a two digit year, etc] were slated for replacement.
In short, the first six months (July to December 1998) was spent completing about 12 months worth of work that should have already been done and wasn't.
The first six months of 1999 were spent installing new personal computers, routers, hubs, and communication equipment in preparation for January 1, 2000. Obviously, the programming groups and over 200 vendor programmers were busy correcting and testing six million lines of new program code.
As of July 1, 1999 we could actually start feeling good about our planning and accomplishment for Y2K. At this juncture the planning staff could resume their normal routine of forecasting new business needs for January 2000 and beyond.
As we all know, the "Y2K event" passed almost unnoticed. In fact, all of our systems remained functional and operating as we sat in our command center waiting for the minutes to click by signaling the start of a new year. I know several unit heads all breathed a collective sigh of relief as nothing happened and we quickly ceased our vigilant watch for "impending doom."
Now we were on to new projects and greater coordination in our I.T. arena. What more could we do? Well, we hardly had a chance to turn around and we were faced with over two years of pent up demand. The various bureaus of the N.Y.P.D. had hardly been sitting on their hands for two years. They needed new automation tools, enhancement to existing systems, and resumption of projects that had been suspended because of Y2K needs.
Actually, we had more than two years worth of work on our books and fewer people to accomplish these tasks than were on staff two years earlier. Now, we face a number of challenging projects that represent more than $300 million in program development costs and will keep us occupied for the foreseeable future. (See chart, page 14.)
The evolution from a laid-back Californian to a harried New Yorker may be yet another story from the "Naked City."
And, you may rightfully ask yourself, as some comedians do, "...And, you are telling me this because ...?"
First, it is a story of technical transition in the largest police department in the United States.
Second, it is the recounting of a large organization turning to embrace new business practices made available on the Internet.
Third, it may prove to be a good blueprint for the future evolution of your organization.
Technical transition of an organization is a gut-wrenching process that takes comfortable and time-honored business processes and dumps them on the desk top for re-evaluation, re-ordering, and in some cases, disposal. These processes are steeped in tradition and guarded by people who long ago forgot why they were instituted.
As managers of the process we always forget one maxim, there are no maxims! Everyday is new, and we need to constantly adjust processes to fit our individual business needs. In this arena we can, and should, learn from each other.
The Internet, and its strategic use, will determine the success of public or private organizations of the future. If governments do not use the Internet for better access, interaction, and contact with those we serve then we will be doomed to inevitable obsolescence. We will no longer matter to the citizens if we are not available.
Other choices will be made and governmental organizations will lose the support needed for continued existence.
The same can be said for private organizations with the only difference being that these organizations will be disbanded more quickly due to the commercial nature of their existence, i.e., little or no profit equates to immediate dismantling.
Where private and public organizations depend on each other for cooperation then we need to seek efficient ways to accomplish this coexistence so we can best serve each other.
For instance, the Subpoena Duces Tecum process is a labor-intensive instrument that should be reduced to an electronic request for business records.
We can replace typing a subpoena with a Web-enabled request on the N.Y.P.D. Web site. The attorney (or his or her staff) can access our request form, using an individual security access code, and make the same request in a fraction of the time. The request is then routed to the correct section within the police department immediately [remember, it is really e-mail] and responses can be issued in a more rapid sequence. We eliminate the paperwork, handling or mishandling, and get the product to the requestor quickly.
Obviously, some protocols need to be put in place and processes agreed to before we could proceed.
However, if we could reduce the subpoena process by half we would be saving several months in waiting time and turn it into a painless and paperless method of conducting business.
Many of the technology issues faced by the New York City Police Department today are really regular business information-handling issues. We can learn from each other and our lessons are transferable from one discipline to another.
For instance, optical imaging [scanning of documents onto an electronic media] has been employed extensively in the legal office area.
We could transfer "best practices" and lessons learned from legal practices to the criminal justice world. However, we need to discuss with the legal community what efforts produced the best results.
Additionally, police departments have a leg up on the legal community in the use of wireless communication devices. Perhaps, knowledge of our experiences with these emerging devices could best guide attorneys and their staffs on what best fits individual needs. It's important to remember that any success is based on the quality and caliber of people we have in our organizations.
We can have the best equipment and not have the best results because we have not fostered our employees to produce them.
Let us produce the best we can and learn from each other so we can all be mutually successful.
Howard Baker is deputy commissioner, technological development, at the New York City Police Department.